Current Sports Stars Playing the Renegade Role

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJuly 7, 2014

Current Sports Stars Playing the Renegade Role

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    In today's world, professional athletes do a whole lot more than just play their respective sports. Plenty of them have proven to be interesting and controversial characters.

    The combination of big egos, wacky personalities and a 24/7 media cycle has created more than a few current athletes who make headlines for more than just their performance.

    These nine athletes have become renegades for their actions both on and off the field, and it doesn't look like they will change any time soon.

Johnny Manziel

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    USA TODAY Sports

    He may still be months away from actually playing a professional game, but Johnny Manziel has been arguably the most famous football player on the planet for more than a year now.

    After initially catching the nation's eye in 2012 for his incredible Heisman Trophy-winning season, Manziel had an offseason for the ages. He toured around like an international rock star instead of a college kid, and ruffled feathers as a result. 

    That noise mostly quieted down during a great 2013 season, but then picked back up again during draft season. He was finally taken 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns, and then things got even more interesting. 

    First there was a video of him (via CBS Sports) talking on a "cash phone," which was quickly forgotten after this picture and story hit the Web.

    All of this can go away if he plays well, but Manziel is certainly giving people a lot of ammo to use against him if he struggles. If he does have success, however, we can be expecting to see a whole lot more of this.

Luis Suarez

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    It's honestly kind of hard to call Luis Suarez a renegade, because there's such a specific and bizarre reason for his making headlines.

    Why does he bite opponents? It's a question that is so strange but has become incredibly relevant after he took a chunk out of Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup.

    The weirdest part is it is not even the first (or second) time that Suarez has done this during a match. He bit PSV Eindhoven's Otman Bakkal in 2010 and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in 2013.

    Suarez was hit with a severe ban from FIFA (via the FA) after the incident against Italy, which included a nine-game international ban. 

Colin Kaepernick

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    Colin Kaepernick is no stranger to controversy, big or small. He entered the league by way of a quarterback controversy, overtaking Alex Smith after the veteran's midseason injury and leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl.

    But ever since then, people have (rightly or not) questioned some aspects of Kaepernick. There was the ill-fated decision to wear a Miami Dolphins hat to a party, which obviously angered some fans. Instead of apologizing, Kaepernick stirred the pot a bit more by basically saying "whatever."

    There was a good bit of debate about his recently signed mega-contract. Sporting News' David Whitley also sparked some controversy in an article about Kaepernick's tattoos back in November 2012.

    And, finally, Kaepernick himself told MMQB's Peter King that he wanted "to break that perfect football mold." If that doesn't scream "renegade," I don't know what does.

Yasiel Puig

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    Ever since he (almost literally) exploded onto the MLB scene last season, Yasiel Puig has been a controversial figure.

    Nobody questions his sheer talent, but there have been plenty of concerns about how he conducts himself both on and off the field. Even early last season, plenty of people questioned his character.

    Scott Miller of CBS Sports mentioned "recklessness" and "self-destruction". Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times referenced Puig's "arrogant refusal to listen to instruction". Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe pointed out multiple instances of Puig's bad behavior. 

    Arizona's Miguel Montero talked to MLB.com's Tyler Emerick and harshly criticized the young outfielder. And all of that was just during last summer.

    This year, there have been some significant bumps and bruises as well, including a benching for LA's home opener. Obviously, Puig does things his own way. But it's hard to tell him to change too much when he's hitting .314 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs (as of July 3).

Dwight Howard

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Although he's managed to (sort of) stay out of the headlines and avoid criticism over the past calendar year or so, Dwight Howard has proven himself to be a major renegade (and that's putting it nicely).

    After things completely fell apart in Orlando, Howard and the Magic had a strange yearlong standoff where a million different things happened and didn't happen, resulting in his pushing for a trade.

    He quite enjoyed that time, ultimately ending up at one of the biggest franchises in sports, the Los Angeles Lakers. That season revealed the ups and downs of Howard, and caused teammates to question his intentions.

    After another big courtship last summer, he eventually landed in Houston, where he had a "normal" year by his standards. We'll see how long that lasts.

Alex Ovechkin

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    Ever since he came to North America in 2005, there had always been something very different about Alex Ovechkin, and it has certainly rubbed some people the wrong way during his NHL tenure.

    Just from an aesthetic standpoint, you don't see too many players on the ice decked out with yellow laces and a dark visor. But his renegade personality goes far deeper than that.

    Although he was named the captain of the Washington Capitals a few years back, there are plenty of people (like Mike Milbury) who don't see him as being fit for that type of leadership role.

    Ovechkin has been suspended three times for illegal hits and fined twice. This particular check on Zbynek Michalek was simply inexcusable. Others criticize his lack of defense and hustle.

    His shot-first attitude may also irk some, but it doesn't really seem like Ovechkin cares. He's led the league in goals four times and has won three MVP awards.

Floyd Mayweather

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    It's hard to find a much more divisive current athlete than Floyd Mayweather. But not even his biggest detractors can deny his stardom.

    He's never lost a bout, and is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. In fact, BBC Sport listed him as the highest-paid athlete in the entire world for 2014.

    But his long-running feud with Manny Pacquiao has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, and his brush-ins with the law have also hurt his image.

    However, he's really most famous out of the ring for his "Money Mayweather" personality. Pictures like this and this and this certainly rub some people the wrong way. But as long as the victories and money keep piling up, he's just going to keep doing his thing.

Dez Bryant

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    For my money, Dez Bryant is a lot less of a renegade than people make him out to be, but my opinion doesn't change how many view the wide receiver.

    After starring at Oklahoma State, Bryant's career took a bizarre turn when he was ruled ineligible for the 2009 season due to lying about his relationship with former NFL player Deion Sanders (h/t ESPN). 

    He's had multiple legal issues in his three-year NFL career, and was essentially given a strict set of "baby-sitting" rules by Dallas (which are still mostly intact today, via ESPN).

    Last season, his attitude on the field came under fire even more than his antics off of it. He was on camera seemingly berating teammates on the sideline. Even though the audio sounded more positive (via CBS Sports), there were plenty of critics, including ESPN's Jean-Jacques Taylor, ready to jump on Bryant.

LeBron James

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    Well of course he's going to make the list. Ever since "The Decision," LeBron James has become arguably the biggest sports villain of all time.

    There have been too many instances to even list individually here, whether they were fairly reacted to or not. From the time of "The Decision" until now, every move has been scrutinized and he has made it fairly easy for his naysayers to excoriate him.

    His self-awareness of "the dark side" seemed to only exacerbate his critics even more, and he has since relished that role while winning two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

    On June 6, he called himself "the easiest target in sports" to ESPN's Michael Wilbon. It's hard to argue with that sentiment, fair or not.

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